The Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas)
26 May 1869, Wed

The Military Prisoners.--A Military Commission is now in session at Jefferson, Texas, engaged in the trial of some thirty-five of the citizens of that place, charged with the murder of the notorious G.W. Smith, one of the worst outlaws that ever infested and injured a community. We had hoped that Gen. Reynolds would see the impropriety of this course in the matter, but he evidently labors under the influence of very great prejudice and misconception concerning it. He has just published a reply to a circular of Mr. R.W. Loughery, editor of the Jefferson Times and Marshall Republican, setting forth the injustice of his course. This circular was sent to the President, and by him transmitted through the War Department, etc., to Gen. Reynolds for report. In his reply Gen. Reynolds gives his own version of the killing of Smith, and refuses to turn the prisoners over to the civil courts, giving for this refusal two of the worst and most mistaken reasons that were ever given for any act of oppression, first, that he believes the civil courts would not do justice in the case, and second, that "the offence" as he calls it, "against the United States, is not within the jurisdiction of a State Court."

The Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas)
29 May 1869, Sat

From our Evening Edition of Yesterday.
The Jefferson Prisoners--Charges and Specifications Against Them.

We give below and abstract of the charges and specifications preferred against a number of the citizens of Jefferson, Texas.
Charge First--Conspiracy To oppose the authority of the United States and to prevent the execution of the act of Congress to provide for the more efficient government of the rebel States, passed March 2, 1867, and the acts supplementary thereto commonly called the Reconstruction Laws; and feloniously and of malice aforethought to kill and murder citizens, and feloniously and forcibly to resist the United States military, engaged inthe exectuion of said laws.

Specification--In this, that heretofore, to-wit: on or about the 4th day of October, 1868, at Jefferson, Marion county, in the State of Texas, then and now embraced within the limits of the Fifth Military District, as constituted under the act of Congress to provide for the more efficient government of the rebel States, passed March 2, 1867--Ludwig P. Alford, Richard P. Crump, William H. Magill, Mark H. Joplin, Silas H. Nance, Charles L Pitcher, John C. Murphy, Jr.; Henry A. Stanley, Walter L. Marshall, John M. Vines, William A. Hightower, David E. Carpenter, Richard Batte, William D. Hannagan, George Gray, Oscar Gray, Henry M. Woodsmall, Nathaniel McDoy, freedman; Richard Davis, freedman; Marion T. Slaughter, Wm. B. Saufley, Wm. Smith, Harrison Thurman, A.A. Spence, George O'Neil, James Alley, Charles Hotchkiss, John Brim, William Alley, William Rose, James Knox, Jacob Bates, David Castlebury, Richard Sedberry, Jacob Geer, John Hopperty, William Ochiltree, "Bud" Connor, "Clem" Galloway, Stephen Sullivan, William Nichols, "The" Nichols, James Cotton, Theodore Lewis, John Lewis, "Bob" Jones, John Brooks, freedman; Haggerty, Witherspoon, Cotton, Thomas, Gorman, Monan, Campbell, John Penman, Pink Barnes, Kirkland, Pratt, Theodore Scott, John Muse, William L. Crawford, John Chambers, Wallace Dobbins, John Brightwell, McCarthy, and other persons whose names are as yet unknown, did conspire and combine together to oppose the authority of the Government of the United States, and to prevent the execution of the act of Congress entitled: "An act to provide for the more efficient government of the rebel States," passed March 2, 1867, and the acts of Congress supplementary thereto, commonly called the reconstruction laws; and to feloniously and of malice aforethought, kill and murder citizens in revenge for the expression of their opinions, favorable to the policy of those laws; and did then and there further conspire to feloniously and focibly resist the military of the United States, engaged in the execution of said laws, and in furtherance of the conspiracy aforesaid, the said parties did associate and organize themselves into a secret society or order under the name of "The Knights of the Risisng Sun;" and in further execution of said conspiracy and the design, and by means of said organization, did then and there assemble together, armed with guns and pistols, loaded with powder and ball; and being so assembled, did then and there assault, seize, overpower and disarm a military guard of the United States, which guard was then and there engaged in the protection of George W. Smith, Richard Stewart, freedmen; Lewis Grant freedman; Anderson Wright, freedman, and Cornelius Turner, freedman, who were then and there confined at the city jail in said Jefferson; and said Crump, Alford et als., did then and there seize and assault, with intent to kill and murder, the said Smith, Stewart, Grant, Wright and Turner, and did then and there feloniously and of malice aforethought, kill and murder said Smith, Stewart and Grant, by shooting them with guns and pistols, loaded with powder, shot and ball, etc; and then and there proceeded, being armed with guns and pistols, loaded with gunpowder, balls and shot to the neighborhood of the plantation and residence of -- Caldwell, Judge of the Supreme Court of the State of Texas, which plantation is about two miles from said Jefferson, with intent feloniously and malice aforesaid, to seize, kill and murder him, the said Caldwell.

Charge Second; Murder--Specification 1st-- Charges that the parties indicated did, on or about the 4th day of October, 1868, at Jefferson, Marion county, in the State of Texas, then and now embraced within the limits of the Fifth Military District, as constituted under the act of Congress to provide for the more efficient government of the rebel States, passed March 2nd, 1867, in and upon the body of George W. Smith, feloniously and wilfully, and of their malice aforethought, make an assault, and with guns and pistols, loaded with powder, ball and shot, did then and there mortally shoot and wound him, the said Smith, of which shooting and wounding the said Smith did then and there instantly die.

Specification 2d--Charges that the parties in question did in like manner feloniously kill and murder Louis Grant; and specification 3d makes a similar charge against them for the killing of Richard Stewart, freedman, at the same time and place.

The Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas)
19 June 1869, Sat

Military Trials--Gen. Reynolds. Mr. R.W. Loughery, of the Marshall Republican, replies at lenght to the reply of Gen. Reynolds to an "Address to the Press and People of the Country," issued by Mr. Loughery in February last, directing public attention to the extraordinary and alarming condition of affairs in Jefferson, Texas. This address was sent by the author to the President, and by the latter to Gen. Reynolds "for report," and he returned it with a defence of his course, to which Mr. Loughery now replies. He thingks the defence of Gen. Reynolds "evinces a respect for the enlightened judgement of the country which few, if any, in Texas were prepared to expect," and seems to lean to the opinion that the General, in ordering military commissions, etc., may have been imposed on by designing men, but, whether he has or not, says Mr. L.:
I speak confidently when I assert that the tyranny and injustice which have marked his administration in Texas have scarcely a parallel in the Southern States, as grossly and cruelly as they have been at times misgoverned.

After exhibiting strong proofs of the incendiarism of Smith, the killing of whom is the excuse for the military commission, Mr. Loughery takes up the assertions of Gen. Reynolds that the citizens now on military trial could not be fairly tried by the civil courts and were not entitled to bail. How, it is asked, does Gen. Reynolds know that they were not entitled to bail, without a full and fair preliminary examination? and then we have the following which it seems to us is a very damaging presentation so far as Gen. Reynolds' side of the case is concerned;
But let us take Gen. Reynolds upon his own record. A mob of United States soldiers broke open the jail at Tyler, and wantonly, cruelly, and without the slightest excuse, murdered a citizen confined in the jail. Was any military commission ordered in this case? Were the parties ever brought to trial or punishment? Bickerstaff, a notorious outlaw, was recently killed by a mob in Northern Texas. He happened to be as obnoxious to the military authorities as he was to the citizens. Consequently his death created no sensation. His conduct in many respects was like that of Smith, and he uttered precisely the same threats, and used almost the identical language. But he was not a radical. He did not sojourn in a county where the negroes, as in Marion, outnumbered the whites two to one, and among all his villainy, did not threaten them with a negro war. Since the occupancy of Jefferson, Mr. William Perry, an old and respected citizen, was murdered in cold blood by the United States troops, under order of a detective, a man of infamous character and antecedents. What was done about that? Was the murderer placed in the stockade and held to answer for the deed? On the contrary, he was turned over to the civil authorities, had a sham trial before a timid or corrupt judge, an apointee of Gen. Reynolds, and turned loose.

An old and respectable citizen of Hopkins county was shot down by United States soldiers at Sulphur Springs, some time last year. Was there an investigation in that case? Did anybody hear of a trial, or that it excited the slightest interest at Gen. Reynolds' headquarters? Take the case of Mrs. Bonfoey, who was brutally murdered in Marshall about fifteen months ago. She was supposed, after the arrest of her husband, to have a large amount of money belonging to the United States Government, and for which she was doubtless murdered. Public suspicion, founded upon well authenticated facts, pointed to United States soldiers as the guilty parties. Not only was there no military commission in this case, but the very man most suspect was sent away. Such was the terror of the military that men were afraid to speak what they thought, and the civil officer who did take some slight action in it, was afraid afterward of his life.
Hundreds of men, in various portions of the State, have been arrested by the military authorities, treated with indignity, fined and imnprisoned upon the testimony of worthless and depraved white men and negroes, and the money thus unjustly taken from the citizens pocketed by officials. Were these acts ever invistigated, or a dollar so unjustly taken restored? But they not only treated the people with despotic tyranny, seemingly for the purpose of driving them to desperation, but they sent broadcast over the country false reports of the condition of society in Texas and the temper of its people.

The Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas)
24 June 1869, Thu

A Military Prisoner.--The wife of Mr. C.L. Pitcher, of Jefferson, writes a strong appeal in behalf of her husband, who is now in military confinement at Jefferson, Texas. She says that on the 9th of February last, she discharged two negro servants for inefficiency. On the evening of the same day Mr. Pitcher was arrested and confined in the stockade. No charge was made against him, nor any information given him concerning the grounds of his arrest. Having been in confinement some months, he wrote some letters of complaint. On the 30th ult., on his return from the place where he was undergoing trial, he was put "into a cell six feet by eight, with walls three plank deep and almost air-tight," and kept there twelve hours, when the surgeon gave his opinion that the prisoner could not survive if kept in the cell much longer. Some apertures were then made in the cell but the prisoner was not removed from it. He is kept in solitary confinement, and, though in delicate health, is not allowed any food except the rations of the common soldier; is not permitted to have any reading matter whatever, nor to take any exercise, nor to have a light in his cell at night. Mrs. Pitcher continues:
All this is to satisfy the private malice of Gen. Buell. I am not allowed to send him any thing at all, except articles ordered by the Doctor. A minister of the place, one highly respected and beloved by every one, requested Gen. Buell, personally, to be allowed to send Mr. Pitcher a bible, which he most positively refused, saying that he could not have that or anything else, that any of the other prisoners might have it but not him. Will the United States Government, which has the character of being humane, magnaminous and just, allow such petty acts of tyranny?
* * * * * * *
Mr. Pitcher's health is failing rapidly. His looks plainly show that if this same course is continued much longer, he will fall a martyr, and an innocent one, to the tyranny of this commander.
My husband has been guilty of no wrong; he has been ready at any and all times to meet any fair investigation of his conduct. If he had any fears whatever, abundant opportunities were afforded him of going away. But he chose to remain long after the first arrests were made. And now having ruined him pecuniarily, and left his family defenseless, knowing that they can bring no charge against him which he cannot fairly meet, an attempt is being made to destroy his life by slow torture. My mental sufferings are scarcely less than his, and in the name of humanity and justice I ask if there is no redress or alleviation of this great wrong.

The Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas)
24 June 1869, Thu

Jefferson Matters.

Editors News.
Under this caption Flake's Bulletin, of the 29th ult., contains an editorial to which I ask the privilege, through your columns, of a brief reply.
The article which I allude is of an inflammatory character, calculated and designed to excite prejudice against a body of defenceless men, and to uphold a condition of things, and a series of enormities, which all men, who have a reverence for constitutional law and justice, must deplore.

The occasion for this display of zeal is an address to "the press of the country," which I issued in February last, to which Gen. J.J. Reynolds replied. The editor assumes, that I presented in that address "the vies of th ematter which the friends of the Jefferson prisoners entertain," so clearly that it left nothing to say, and that Gen. Reynolds in his answer to the charges I presented, had given so overwhenming an ezpression of the propriety and justice of his course, as to satisfy all men, at home and abroad, that complaing in regard to it was ill advised, unreasonable, unfounded, and calculate to inflict injury upon the prisoners and the community in which these transactions have occurred.

My reply to Gen. Reynolds is before the country, and although not as full as I could have made it, is sufficiently so to show its indefensible character, and the unfairness of the remarks of the Bulletin.
What I complain of in that journal is, that the editor well knew that the address of mine on which he saw fit to comment, did not contain, and was not designed to set forth, circumstantially, the grounds of complaing against the military authorities in the course pursued at Jefferson. Previous numbers of the Texas Republican, every issue of which I have reason to believe he received, as that paper has been sent to him regularly in exchange, had given fully the facts upon which the address was predicated.

It was apparent to every editor to whom it was sent that the sole design of it was to direct attention to these facts and to invite comment upon them. The editor of the Bulletin, therefore, must have been wanting, either in common sense or common honesty, or have been remarkabley obtuse, to have found in that brief address the elaboration and clearness which he claims that it contained. And, in this connection, I might well ask him why it is, if he makes any pretensions to candor and fairness, that none of the details of this Jefferson affair, presenting it as it rteally exists, have ever found a place in his columns and that it was only when a partial statement was made, that could be ingeniously turned to my disadvantage, to the detriment of that community and to the injury of the unhappy prisoners, that he seized hold of it with avidity?

Let us look at this question, disrobed of the sophistry which the Bulletin endeavors to throw around it, and as it really exists. Geo. W. Smith and two negroes were killed in October, while in the custody of the civil authorities, at Jefferson, Texas. That it was a "military crime," that the "powers of the Federal Government were defied," and that it constituted "an insult to the authority of the United States, as the Bulletin assumes, in order to excite prejudice against the entire community of Jefferson, where the tragedy occurred, non of the facts sustain. Major Curits, and every officer who has testified in the case, state that the prisoners were in the custody of the civil authorities, and that the mob disclaimed any intention to injure him or any of his command. Still more incorrect is the charge that I have attempted to justify this act or to shield its perpetrators from punishment. The real questions involved are these; Does the act of this mob, however unauthorized and wicked it may have been warrant the military commander of this district in setting aside the civil authority, and instituting an inquisition and a despotism that has no parallel, even in governments making no pretensions to freedom? Were not the men, whoever they may have been, that were suspicioned or charged with being concerned in this mob, entitled to a hearing and a fair and impartial trial?

What are the facts? The civil courts were in successful operation. The District Judge and all the civil officers of the county were military appointees, men of acknowledged radical loyalty, and removable at the pleasure of the military commander. Jefferson is a commercial place. A very large proportion of the white population are from the North. The elections that have been held in the county exhibit the fact that what is denominated the "loyal element" is in the ascendency. It may well be asked, under these circumstances, what excuse could there be alleged in favor of the course pursued by Gen. Reynolds? And what was that course? Did Gen. Reynolds wait for a session of the District Court, and for the action of the grand jury? On the contrary, he first sent to Jefferson a military mayor, a man who was justly obnoxious to the people of this whole country, on account of the tyranny he displayed while in charge of the Freedman's Bureau at Marshall, and for having procured the arrest and imprisonment for weeks of several respectable citizens of Marshall, on a statement made on honor, which when a fair investigation was obtained, he himself denied when placed on oath. He sent a detective to Jefferson, a man of infamous character and antecedents, who employed all the agencies that low cunning, unauthorized inquisition and corruption could devise to work up the case. It has been charged and not denied that the lowest and most abandoned characters of the place were employed as detectives and spies, and that intimidation, threats, coaxing, and offers of bribery were freely used by this representative of Holt and Conover. Not only these enormities were practiced, but one of the most worthy citizens of the place was brutally murdered under his orders by a squad of United States soldiers. Arbitrary arrests, based upon such testimony or no testimony at all were commenced under his orders, and continued until the day of trial. What right has the Bulletiin or any one else to assume that the men, all or any of them, were guilty? The Constitution of the United States guarantees to every citizen a speedy and impartial trial before a jury of the country. It allows them to confer with and to be heard by counsel, to prepare their testimony, to be advised of the charge they will be required to meet, and to a fair preliminary examination. So far from this being the case, these men were arrested withoug warrant, without being informed of the charge or charges against them, denied access to counsel, except in the presence of a guard, and were thus cut off from every opportunity of defense. They were denied bail, refused the writ of habeas corpus, and with teir busiiness ruined, their families cst down in gloom, and complaint silenced by punishment, they were compelled to await as patiently as they could, the pleasure of those who had them in charge.
If this is not despotism of the most odious and revolting character, what is it? If there is any trial in Austria or Prussia, in modern times, that excels it in refined cruelty, I would like for the editor of the Bulletin, to point to the instance? Will the editor of that paper pretend to say, that these unfortunate men can have or likely to have, a fair trial. Yet he is the defender of all this wrong and outrage upon our free institutions, and upon the rights of American citizens, while I stand out in opposition to them. If this be treason, and an acknowledgement that I am a traitor, as alleged by the Austin Republican, I am willing to stand the charge, and appeal for my vindication, to the enlightened, virtous sentiment of the country.
The Supreme Court of the United States decided during the war, in the Millegan case, against the legality of arbitrary arrests and trials by military commissions. In the recent Texas bond case, the same court decided that Texas was a State in the Union. If so, the Constitution clearly states "that the citizens of each State shall have the same rights, immunities, and priveleges of the citizens of the several States," which at once forbids all such summary proceedings, tyranny, and reign of terror as introduced and practiced at Jefferson.
But if the Jefferson prisoners were to be tired by a military court, they were at least entitled to as fair a hearing as could be expected by such a tribunal. Has that been the case? The bearing of two of the commission through the trial, so far as it has progressed, is represented to have given unmistakable evidence of deep-seated prejudice against the prisoners. The character, bias, and feelings of one of these men was strongly presented by Judge Evans in a speech in the convention on the 6th of January last. If the commander of this district intended to give these men a fair trial, why did he place such a man on the commission? Judge Evans, after showing the conduct of bureau agents, and to what extent they had outraged private rights, and, by their tyranny, had produced the disorganization, demoralization, and crime throught the State, which was the source of so much complaint, for which the great body of the citizens were not responsible, but which, for unworthy political purposes, was being wielded against them, with such terrible effect, said:
Bickstaff became an outlaw by the oppression of Brevet Lieut. Col. Sarr, agent of the Freedmen's Bureau at Mt. Pleasant, Titus county. This officer, unfortunately for the interest of Union men, belonged to that class who came here filled with hatred and prejudice against the whole white population, and his first effort was to incite the whole black population against the whites as their oppressors, and that he was there to redress and punish their injuries. Of course, he was soon gratified by numerous complaintsof colored against white poeple of that county, both men and women. Such was the order of his mind that he would give more consideration to the statement of the most worthless and corrupt colored man or woman than to the testimony of the most credible white witness in that community. He would allow no weight to testimony of the more respectable colored people who would testify in favor of a white man against a colored one, and there was therefore no way of checking his arbitrary proceeding.
I will cite one instance in point--the case of Mr. Wm. Hart, one of the most respectable and worthy citizens to be found in any country. Upon complaint of a worthless white man, who professed to be acting in the interest of the colored people, this man Starr compelled Hart to pay a thousand dollars, aginst the most positive testimony of the colored people themselves!
As an evidence of the moral character of this agent, he undertook to enforce marriage between the races by compulsory means; as an example-- upon the complaint of a colored woman, not of the most exalted reputation, that a white man of property had made a promise of marriage, he sent a file of soldiers to bring him forth, and have the promise executed. The man left the country, and Starr immediately sold his property and turned over the proceeds to the colored woman. This and like arbitrary acts are attested by the most respectable Union men in Titus county, and well known to the whole community. In fact, it is notorious that the counties in which disturbacnes have taken place in Texas are precisely those in which bureau agents were stationed. And where there have been no agents no difficulty whatever has occurred between the white and colored people. The damage done to the interests of the colored people by this one bureau agent is incalculable, and in many instances irreparable. And it was the natural result, that the parties, white and colored, who had aided Starr in his oppression, would be found assassinated. Bickerstaff and his band no doubt killed some of these parties, and drove others from the counrty; but that he was countenanced or encouraged by any considerable number in that community is as untrue in his case as in that of Baker.
Gen. Reynolds concludes that these bands were "countenances or not discouraged," because he could find no respectable citizen in those communities willing to aid the military in their arrest.
Has he so little knowledge, so little sympathy with the brighter and nobler side of our nature! Does he not know that the American people have an instinctive dread of trial and execution by military courts-- a prejudice, I may say, to the everlasting credit of the Anglo American race. And I trust the time will never come, when any portion of the people South or North will have so degenerated as to welcome this form of tyranny, against which the founders of our republic sought to guard.
While the people of Texas remain subjected to a military government of which they form no part, they cheerfully acquiesce in its authority over them; at the same time there is not intelligent or virtuous citizen who will williingly join in the pursuit of any one, to be tried and punished by martial law, no matter who, or what may be the crime.
And yet, in the face of these facts, which have never been denied or palliated, this man has been placed on the commisssion to try these truly unfortunate prisoners, many of whom I am satisfied are gentlemen of the highest character, who had no connection with the transactions with which they are charged.
What defense can the Bulletin or any other radical journal offer in the defense of these charges, and in opposition to these plain exposition of facts? It desires to be considered a fair paper, that "nothing extenuates nor sets down aught in malice." How does its practice comport with its professions? Will it have the candor, even at this late hour, to do justice to an injured and oppressed communmity, and to sustain the civil institutions of the country? Will it countenance the advocate of despotism, corruption, and tyranny, or will it make an effort in defense of constitutional public liberty?
That Smith ought not to have been killed, and particularly in the manner that he was, no one will deny. I would be as far from countenancing such acts as the Bulletin or any other citizen or journalist. But I know enough of human nature to assert that such a man would have been killed or driven out of any community. Take the most quiet, orderly, law abiding village in New England, and let a desperado go there, and organize the worst element of the community against its peace and security, the town destroyed by fire, and suspicion attach to him as the instigator of it; then organize a mob and shoot two of the citizens, and upon being arrested threaten to burn the town again, and I am under the impression no one would answer for his safety. The condition of affairs in Jefferson was far worse than this, for there the negro element exceeds the white over two to one, and during an entire winter, repeatedly the citizens had to stand guard over thier property and families, in constant dread of a war of races, instigated by this dangerous man.
I have shown that there have been a large number of other cases where the civil law has been outraged, where there was no opportunity for political capital, that were passed over in silence. I referred, among others, to the case of Mrs. Bonfoey, who was brutally murdered in Marshall, as was believed by United States soldiers. In that case, a citizen told Lieut. Hawley, then in command at this place, that if he were sure of protection, he could trace the murderers. Upon being informed that it was suspicioned they were in his camp, Lieut. Hawley promptly told the citizen that if he repeated the remark he would arrest him and place him in confinement.
I hope you will pardon the length of this communication. Justice to myself and to the people of this section, as I conceived, demanded it. I trust you will not only publish it, but continue your aid in defense of our civil institutions. And if, as you seem to believe, Gen. Reynolds is anxious to restore the civil government of the State, let him prove his faith by his works. As long as he continues to use corrupt agents, arrest citizens without warrant, and employ stockades as exhibitions of his power, I shall regard him as no real friend of the country, or intending to carry out, in their letter and spirit, the reconstruction laws. R.W. Loughery.

The Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas)
17 Aug 1869, Tue

The Jefferson Trial.-- A correspondent of the New Orleans Times, writing from Jefferson, Texas, in relation to the military trial in progress there says:
A great amount of testimony has been elicited, tending, so far, favorabley to the prisoners. The prosecution is founded mainly upon the testimony of Anderson Wright, a negro, who was taken out of the jail with Smith and the others, but who managed to escape, and that of Dr. Frith, who was one of the prisoners, but who turned "State's evidence." Some very racy statements were elicited a day or two ago by the defense, from a negro named William Smith, who had been intended to be one of the witnesses for the prosecution. He said he was threatened with hanging if he did not swear as he was desired, and thereupon made affidavit to the effect that he was at the jail on the night of the killing, and identified various parties. But on being brought into court he stated that he was at home all the eveneing and substantiated the fact by the testimony of persons who were with him at his house, half a mile from town, while the shooting was going on. The defense has been ably conducted by some of the leading lawyers of this section, and will undoubtedly prove successful, s those parties most implicated by the witnesses for th eprosecution have been proved by the most conclusive evidence to have been elsewhere when the deed was done. The officers composing the commission seem disposed to do justice to the prisoner, the general impression being that a verdict will be rendered strictly in accordance with the testimony elicited.

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